Roughyeds foil Knights with late, late try
Date published: 19 May 2014
OLDHAM 31, YORK 30
HOW fitting that on rugby league’s special weekend at the Etihad Stadium, Roughyeds should conjure up a magic moment of their own at Whitebank.
It came three minutes from the end of a thriller when, against all expectations, full-back Steven Nield scored the try that gave Roughyeds a 31-30 win against York City Knights.
Playing fabulous, direct, no-nonsense rugby, of the type Scott Naylor hugely admires, Oldham rattled the Knights by racing into a 27-0 lead in as many minutes.
It was the first of a few tales of the unexpected that engulfed this peculiar game between two of the leading teams in the division.
If Oldham’s total domination of the first half hour took fans of both clubs by surprise, what happened next was even more astonishing. Roughyeds conceded a try against the run of play and suddenly a fighting force that had looked invincible became nervous, edgy and vulnerable.
Growing in confidence by the minute, York scored three tries in the five minutes before half time and added four more in a totally one-sided second half.
Having turned the game upside down to lead 30-27, they looked a sure bet to win.
Oldham conceded several penalties, which allowed the visitors to hog possession and stop Naylor’s men leaving their end of the field. When they did get possession, Oldham was no longer the self-assured, self-reliant attacking force of the opening half-hour.
But in a rare attack Lewis Palfrey placed a perfectly-weighted crosskick behind York’s defensive line and into the path of Mo Agoro, who made yards up the wing before transferring the ball back to his captain. Palfrey changed direction to look for his outside runners, David Cookson and Danny Langtree, and he found the big centre, who charged for the line.
Held just short by a crowded defence, he tried to put the ball inside to Langtree. It was knocked down by a retreating defender and in came the supporting Nield at top speed to pick up and dive in for the winning try.
“I was following play from the back,” he said. “We were tight in the corner and there were a lot of bodies around, but the ball came loose, right in my path.
“It almost fell into my hands and the next thing I knew I was over the line and the referee was pointing to the try. It was a good moment.”
Anticipating a few hard words from Naylor, Palfrey said: “At 27-0 up we perhaps relaxed a little and moved down a gear. This sort of thing has happened before and we need to get it sorted quickly.”
What caused the big turnaround ?
The Adam Files injury didn’t help. Back from a knee problem after two months out, he was on the field only six minutes before he went off again. With 55 minutes to go, Roughyeds were down to 16 men on one of the hottest days of the year.
Naylor then pulled off starting props Phil Joy and Michael Ward, who had smashed York into submission in the opening exchanges.
The six starting forwards, Joy, Whitmore, Ward, Crowley, Langtree and Tyson, were all on top note early on, providing the platform for Palfrey and Robinson to spread the ball to both sides of the field.
One or the other was main man in the build-up to each of Oldham’s five early tries.
Oldham will need to do better than this if they are to emulate last season’s second-place finish.
But a side that can find a way to win up the Whitebank slope on a sizzling hot day - and after taking a pounding for 40 minutes - has a lot going for it.
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